Chapter 6:

Death Knocks on the Door

It’s My First Time Working Late Nights at a Convenience Store, and If I Keep Getting Demon Lords, Kappa and Other Oddballs as Customers, I’m Giving My Two-Weeks’ Notice

This is my eighth graveyard shift at the convenience store.Bookmark here

For whatever reason, tonight there’s a huge murder of crows hanging around outside, cawing up a storm. Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...Bookmark here

“Welcome, irassha-...”Bookmark here

Caw! Caw! CAW!Bookmark here

Flap-flap-flap-flap!!Bookmark here

The automatic doors slide open and in swoops the birds, in a flurry of black feathers.Bookmark here

“Oh my god!! What the hell’s going on?!!”Bookmark here

I can barely hear myself think over the sound of all these flapping wings. I furrow my brows, trying to survey the scene. The murder has settled in an orderly line along the shelves, glaring at me with the collective intensity of several black panthers.Bookmark here

“This store is filthy.” Bookmark here

Standing in the entrance is a gentleman in a slim black suit, the same color as the crows — with a matching gas mask. The birds closest to the entrance glide over to perch on top of his white hair, each shoulder and his outstretched hands, as if he’d summoned them. Without a single word. Bookmark here

I...don’t really know what just happened.Bookmark here

There are crows sitting on all the shelves, like some kind of weird surveillance system.Bookmark here

I get the feeling that this customer, standing there in his black suit and mask, is on a whole different level from everyone else who’s come before him.  Bookmark here

I mean, the first words out of his mouth were an insult, for one. Bookmark here

“Uh...what? We’re not a store that’s...okay with, pets indoors, I think? Wait, do the rules even apply to wild crows?”Bookmark here

“The crows I keep are most certainly not pets. I dare say they are both cleaner and cleverer than you could ever hope to be.”Bookmark here

The gentleman in black approaches the register in short, quick strides, stopping directly in front of me.Bookmark here

“Do you regularly clean this establishment, from top to bottom? In every nook and cranny?”Bookmark here

“...Sure, we do.”Bookmark here

“Would you...stake your life on that?”Bookmark here

The latter half of that question is unsettlingly serious. The man in the gas mask stares intently at my face, as if to try and deduce whether or not I’m lying through my teeth.Bookmark here

“Well, yeah. I like cleaning, and my manager and I are pretty good about keeping up on it.”Bookmark here

This guy’s too much. He’s too close, too creepy, and I can hear him breathing. (That mask just makes it worse.) Bookmark here

“Is that so? Where would you say you put in the most effort, then?” Bookmark here

“The magazine racks, I guess? A lot of dust builds up around there. And my manager watches the garbage cans like a hawk.”Bookmark here

“Oh, really? You think this level of cleanliness is sufficient? If he could see this, the inventor of the vacuum cleaner would be rolling in his grave.”Bookmark here

“...”Bookmark here

The stranger stares at me expectantly, waiting for...something.Bookmark here

“...Heh. Ha ha ha...”Bookmark here

Crossing his arms, he nods in (totally condescending) approval.Bookmark here

What is his problem? Obviously, this guy thinks he’s all that, but he’s just all around weird. And, those crows he brought in haven’t stopped giving me that hungry, beady-eyed glare of theirs since they first flew in here. I’m a dead man. Bookmark here

“So, um...what exactly are you? Uh, sir.” Bookmark here

“Whatever do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

He runs a gloved finger under the lower edge of his gas mask as he tilts his head questioningly.Bookmark here

“Uh, like, are you from another world? Do you appear in any Japanese folktales? Maybe you’re a yokai? Just to give you a few examples.”Bookmark here

“...I happen to be none of those.”Bookmark here

He replies in a low mutter, pausing to idly scratch the top of the head of the crow perched on his shoulder. Raising his finger, possibly for emphasis, the customer continues.Bookmark here

“As I am a shinigami.”Bookmark here

Say whaaaaat?! He’s one of those infamous gods of death?!Bookmark here

Right when I thought I was getting used to our crazy clientele, the universe just had to throw me a curveball. This guy’s in a whole new tier of things that shouldn’t exist.Bookmark here

“Huh, I guess that explains all the crows. Crows, death, makes sense. So, do they do your bidding, or...?”Bookmark here

“My bidding? Hardly. They happen to be much too intelligent for that. No, I am merely fond of crows.” Bookmark here

Did he just say, “fond of”?Bookmark here

Dude, you’re covered in crows from your head down to your freaking toes! That goes way beyond a mild appreciation!!Bookmark here

“Now then, to business. You must be wondering why I am here.”Bookmark here

“Hold on, don’t tell me. You’re working for one of our rival’s stores, so you set all those crows loose in here to make us look bad.” Bookmark here

“Certainly not for any reason so dishonest as that. I do have a conscience, after all.” Bookmark here

Well, I’m not convinced.Bookmark here

That was pretty much the last straw. Any hope I’d had of dealing with tonight’s weirdo calmly just went out the automatic doors.Bookmark here

“Because those crows’re a huge pain in the ass! I wish I could start cleaning up after the bastards right this second, because this sure as hell isn’t going to be an easy job. If anyone knew we had one crow in here — never mind this many — we’d be out of business! A whole convenience store boarded up, all because you let a shit-ton of wild birds in! Go on, get ‘em out of here!” Bookmark here

Clenching a fist to try and contain my rage, I jab a finger at the door with my free hand.Bookmark here

“If my manager saw this...”Bookmark here

Just thinking about his possible reaction is depressing. With a sigh, I hang my head in despair. Bookmark here

“And this manager of yours is more terrifying than a literal god of death?”Bookmark here

“He’s at least a hundred times worse. If you don’t get those birds out of here this instant, he’ll rip ‘em apart with his bare hands and turn them into crow stew. Then he’ll eat the lot of it — and lick the bowl clean when he’s done.”  Bookmark here

We sell food here, for crying out loud. We don’t even let pets in, so wild birds are definitely out. What would my manager say if he saw this mess...?Bookmark here

As soon as he hears that, the shinigami snaps his fingers and the crows all file out. Bookmark here

“That’s a start, but if my manager gets one whiff of this place, he’ll know it was filled to the brim with crows. And then he’ll chase us both down to the ends of the earth.”Bookmark here

“What would you have me do, then?” Bookmark here

Asks the shinigami, in all seriousness.Bookmark here

“It’s too late now. I’m going to have to clean everything until there’s not a single trace of crow lying around.”Bookmark here

“...So, disinfecting the entire store would be ideal?”Bookmark here

I mean, sure, that’d be great — but it’s kind of impossible. That doesn’t stop the shinigami though. He reaches behind his back and pulls out something that looks suspiciously like a grenade, setting it on the floor.Bookmark here

“I have a...certain compulsion for things to be clean. So, this is a special disinfectant of my own design. Typically, I use the spray-form while I am out and about — even on my food. It has no odor, nor does it change the taste. These grenade-forms, on the other hand, release an anti-bacterial smoke. The coiling gas will cleanse the entire store, much like a flesh-eating virus.”Bookmark here

“And you just...walk around with those strapped to your back?”Bookmark here

“Being in control of the cleanliness of my surroundings puts me at ease. In the meantime, you ought to step outside.” Bookmark here

As soon as the door closes behind me, I can hear the hiss of smoke being released as the convenience store fills up with a thick, white smog.Bookmark here

After a few minutes have passed, the shinigami stands in front of the automatic doors, waving his hand to open the doors and let the smoke out. He glances over at me, then gives me a nod. Huh. I guess that gas mask isn’t just for looks.Bookmark here

I set the doors to stay open, and the two of us start to clear the air. I turn the ventilation system up to full blast, then open all the windows.Bookmark here

Luckily, there’s a breeze tonight, so the smoke slowly starts to dissipate.Bookmark here

“There. I dare say this is the cleanest convenience store in the entire city. However, now the real work begins.” Bookmark here

The shinigami’s tone is firm, as he props his hands on his hips in a determined pose. Uh, did I hear that right? Bookmark here

“What?! No, it’s cool, you’ve done enough already.”Bookmark here

“After all, my entire reason for coming here was to purge this area.” Bookmark here

“...Say what?” Bookmark here

“I plan on leaving this store in immaculate condition, so would you go fetch your cleaning supplies?” Bookmark here

...Wait, is all this cleaning his way of apologizing for bringing a flock of crows into the store?Bookmark here

That’s it? There aren’t any odd strings attached to this offer or anything? Bookmark here

“I promise you; I will not do anything other than tidy up. The supplies, please.”Bookmark here

He stares me straight in the eye, though that deathly serious mask of his. Wow, he must genuinely feel bad about this. Bookmark here

“Alright, alright. I’ll grab whatever we have, and then we’ll get this done together.”Bookmark here

I head over to the supply closet and pull out whatever seems useful.Bookmark here

“Do not let the dead insects on the windows bug you.”Bookmark here

Without missing a beat, the shinigami looks at me, expectantly. Bookmark here

“Ha. Aha ha...” Bookmark here

“Although, it does suck that your store has no vacuum cleaner. It would be useful for those hard-to-reach spaces.” Bookmark here

That look, again. Bookmark here

“He...heh heh.” Bookmark here

“My apologies for all the trash talk, but would you mind taking out the garbage?”Bookmark here

“Ha ha...heh...huh.”Bookmark here

I laugh, deadpan, through all these lame jokes that I’m guessing he thinks are hilarious.Bookmark here

Pretending to be amused by these awful gags hurts my soul. And they just keep coming. Dude. Please. Have mercy. At this rate, I’m going to drop dead from holding back the urge to roll my eyes at each one.Bookmark here

Seriously, having to suffer through this shinigami’s awful puns is more painful than scrubbing the store from top to bottom. Bookmark here

“Soooo, do you always take your crows with you when you’re out on the town?” Bookmark here

“No, I would normally go out on my own, but today felt like a fine day to take them out on a stroll. Though, I did not know it was poor form to bring crows indoors. Human customs truly are difficult to navigate.”Bookmark here

Wait, so this was a fluke? The stars aligned in the worst possible way and he ended up here, of all places? ...You know, maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all. Just a little militant about cleanliness.Bookmark here

“Due to my penchant for cleanliness, I find it impossible to enter any space that is even the slightest bit dirty. And I abhor those who are messy. Quite frankly, whenever I come across such an individual, I take five years off of their life.” Bookmark here

Whoa, dude! I take it back!!Bookmark here

That’s a clear abuse of shinigami powers, man!!Bookmark here

Especially given that his tolerance levels for that sort of thing are so low. Bookmark here

“Fear not, you have acceptable levels of dirt. I could not say that you were unclean.” Bookmark here

I think he means that to be a compliment, but it doesn’t feel like one. Bookmark here

“...You called this place filthy as soon as you walked in.”Bookmark here

“Well, I do acknowledge that I have...expectations...which cloud my judgement. Or something to that effect. I have yet to find a single store that I would consider ‘stunning’.” Bookmark here

So, your standards are just impossibly high.Bookmark here

The windows glisten as the early morning light hits the glass.Bookmark here

The shinigami and I spent the entire night — from 2:30 AM to 6 AM — cleaning.Bookmark here

The place is spotless. There’s not a speck of dust anywhere. Not the counter, not the register. Hell, even the deep fryer looks brand-new. And, I swear I can see my reflection when I look down at the sparkling clean floor tiles.Bookmark here

...I’m exhausted. Just as I silently slump down onto the register, the shinigami comes to place an order. Bookmark here

“I would like a coffee. For here, please.”Bookmark here

He takes his order over to the seating area, where he makes himself at home. Flicking open a valve near his mouth, he sips the scalding hot beverage through a straw.Bookmark here

The sharp, soothing scent of coffee fills the store.Bookmark here

Once he’s finished, the shinigami addresses me one last time.Bookmark here

“There is nothing more satisfying than a fresh cup of coffee after a deep clean. I shall see you again.” Bookmark here

“...Uh, cool.” Bookmark here

After all that cleaning, I’m dead on my feet. Glassy-eyed, I can barely string two thoughts together, so that’s all the reply he’s going to get.Bookmark here

When my manager steps out of the break room for the shift change, he’s so impressed by the state of the store that he gives me a raise on the spot. Bookmark here

Sipping my own coffee, I peer out through the window at the brightening sky, watching a couple of crows fly by. I might not be a bad idea to make some changes to a few of my habits. Y’know, to avoid having five years taken off my life.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.